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I’m not in Kansas any more

by Linda Talbott of Deltaville

Video by Jennifer Holloway of Deltaville Marina & Boatyard.
Kansas has tornadoes, rain, hail, snow, ice and summers that make you wish for all of the above. For over 50 years, I proudly claimed that state as the place where my roots spread into the infamous clay that simply dared me to plant a flower or grow a garden.

Today I bring you a transplanted Kansan’s eyewitness report on what is being deemed a historic combination of the remnants of Tropical Storm Ida and a nor’easter. I write this as if I had prior knowledge of either. I didn’t—not until having experienced and survived the past 3 days living in Deltaville.

My home sits only feet from the shore where the beautiful Rappahannock River empties into the Chesapeake Bay. For those Midwesterners who picture a river in their minds with sloping banks and shade trees, Virginia rivers are nothing like that, especially not this mammoth and normally peaceful body of water just outside my door.

Predictions of a major storm began mid-morning Wednesday, November 11. I found myself in Richmond visiting with a friend. She asked me if I really wanted to go back home, given what was being forecast.

I laughingly said, “Sherry, I lived in Kansas all my life. I know wind!”

Video footage of “the perfect storm” provided by the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office.
After traversing 7 decades, it is a shock to learn what you don’t know. And I didn’t know wind! I also didn’t have any understanding of the powerful force created when God and nature combine rain and wind. I have experienced a plethora of firsts. 

A friend in Kansas called to see if I was safe and said the news there was calling this, “The Perfect Storm.” I was instantly reminded of that movie and the unrelenting rain and wind . . . and I felt some understanding.

“Can’t you leave?” asked my friend.

I told her that idea had entered my mind but I thought it would be quite an experience to batten down the hatches and ride it out. Isn’t that what they say in the movies?

Organized thinker that I am, I developed a wet towel routine of removing soaked towels and replacing them with dry ones (think changing diapers on sextuplets, before Pampers).

Suddenly, at about 8 a.m. Thursday, with just a couple of flickers, electricity became only a memory and, until now, taken for granted. Not such a big deal you say. Maybe. But with no power, I also had no water. That’s the way it works when you have a well with an electric pump. And, as the baskets of wet towels begin to take on a life of their own, I realized I also had no way to dry them.

The tide clock, which I had learned to read for fun this summer, indicated low tide was imminent. I pondered abandoning this beautiful home to which I have become emotionally attached. I decided the smart move is to go while the going is possible, and I began preparation for my escape. I packed a few things with the intention of driving into Richmond to spend a night or two. 

I loaded my car in the safety of the garage before realizing the door is electric. This would have been an appropriate time to have a Plan B. It was then I remembered Ellen’s spare car outside to be used in cases of emergency, and I deemed this exactly that—an emergency! My first step outdoors was also my first moment of reality. The rain was blinding and cold, and it was all I could do to keep my feet on the ground for the few steps I walked to the car. 

I prayed for all systems to operate. I noted a full tank of gas, lights on, seat belt fastened, wipers on high and the force with me. Backing onto the road, I noticed water standing behind me. Feeling very smug I reasoned I was getting out, just in time.

I breathed a sigh of relief and eased onto the road, heading east out of White Point Cove. Two houses later I saw a lake right in front of me. My memory may not be perfect, but I was certain there was a road there yesterday. I envisioned myself in my friend’s car, floating helplessly into the Rappahannock without even my fishing pole for company. I made an immediate decision to back up and go home. This may be one of the best decisions I made in a while.

The rain continued non-stop and the wind never let up. Sleep did not come easily because I could feel an ever so slight trembling of my bed. It was quite disconcerting and I heard myself speak out in the dark of night, “Shiver Me Timbers.”

For two nights I set an alarm for every 1½ hours to remove and replace towels, stuffing them into the tracks of the large glass sliding doors in an attempt to hold back the water. These same doors had previously provided a view of what heaven will surely look like. In one fell swoop, the sunrise and sunset are offered up daily, but this time they are unable to hold back the rage of the sea and I am humbled by this experience.

The howling wind became almost eerie and I began to wonder if I could be in physical danger. The pounding rain slammed against the windows and I found myself stepping away from them, rather backing into the dining room on the southern side of the house. I thought about tornadoes and the safety precautions I grew up with. Somehow, finding a closet in the center of the house didn’t seem appropriate.

The osprey nest that had been a focus of mine for these past few months sits high on a platform in the river. Until Wednesday, I had watched the water marks on the post as a gauge of the tides. On Thursday, the line is now within 6 inches of the very high platform and perhaps 7 feet above the normal marks.

I have never seen heavy, sturdy piers literally broken apart and large pieces of lumber tossed into the rolling angry waves. Many ended up in yards or on roads hundreds of feet away. Heavy wooden furniture was jerked from patios and thrown out to sea, only to be given to an unsuspecting neighbor, several doors down.

Neighbors who had painstakingly landscaped a sandy beach in front of their home are today faced with most of the sand gone and a variety of debris covering what used to be their favorite outdoor area. 

My home’s yard now has seven deep trenches where grass was once cut and nurtured; now displaying gaping holes over a foot deep.

By Friday night, the winds subsided and the river returned mostly to the peaceful and gentle waves I have grown to love. 

I watched and listened as people began congregating, telling their stories and rolling up their sleeves to help each other. There is something about this kind of disaster that brings out the good in people and, in Deltaville, that is most apparent.

And I must say that from the vantage point of this woman from Kansas, there have been no ordinary moments.

Related Articles:

PHOTOS: The Perfect Storm - Ida meets a nor’easter
Northeaster Winding Down
VDOT Press Release Urges Motorists “Use Caution”
PHOTOS: Northeaster Pushes Tides

posted 11.18.2009

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